Sniffer Dog Northern Ireland researchers are looking out for volunteers to help investigate whether dogs can reliably detect changes to their owner’s diabetes.

The researchers from Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Lincoln in the UK are calling out for 100 people with type 1 diabetes to complete an online survey. The researchers are also seeking video footage of dogs reacting to their owner’s ‘hypos’ or episodes of low blood sugar.

Dr. Deborah Wells from the School of Psychology at Queen’s University said that some reports suggest that some dogs can perform early warning of hypoglycemia by using their sense of smell to ‘sniff out’ if their owner’s blood sugar levels are dropping.

“At present there are a couple of people in the UK trying to train dogs for hypoglycemia detection but scientific study of this phenomenon is sorely lacking and in much need of investigation,” Dr. Wells said.

“This study has the potential to be of enormous benefit to the medical profession. Knowledge amassed from the study will be used to inform the development of electronic non-invasive alert systems for diabetes. These are systems that are able to detect either decreases or increases in blood sugar levels similar to an electronic nose.”

Dr. Wells added, “The video footage will be analyzed to see if dogs exhibit any changes in behavior or show alertness. We will also examine how similar these experiences are between dogs, how reliable they are and whether or not the dogs react in the same way every time their owner experiences low blood sugar levels.”